A few more thoughts on NMSU's basketball win over UTEP on Saturday before talking Aggie football….
We've seen it before — the Aggies embodying their best player on the hardwood. Last year it was Troy Gillenwater. This year it's Wendell McKines, who is back after injury. And I don't believe it's a coincidence that the team seems to be playing harder for the full 40 minutes this season.
McKines had a big game on Saturday night (23 points, 13 rebounds) but it's his energy and attitude that's infectious — flying through the air, diving for loose balls. This rubs of on teammates — the Aggies have virtually the same personnel as last season but look to be working harder. Center Chili Nephawe has been playing with more emotion and edge this year. Does this have something to do with McKines' presence? Well, I certainly think it's possible.
As I wrote yesterday, NMSU played hard on defense throughout Saturday night and passed the basketball well. Did I think they played smart the whole evening? I wouldn't say that.
The Aggies seemed to keep UTEP in it early and looked for the big play late — which resulted in wasted possessions. They could have won by more than 16 points.
I think Christian Kabongo can look good one trip down court — he scored 15 points on Saturday and hit some big shots — and then bad the next — five turnovers and some mind-numbing around-the-back passes.
But really, the Aggies have a very good shot at winning the WAC this year. They have a BIG team — McKines, Nephawe, Hamidu Rahman and Tyrone Watson. One possible key to beating the Aggies this year is by breaking even with them on the boards. Good luck with that though — they're big and long and like to bang underneath. Easier said than done, that's for sure.
Hernst Laroche is a steady point guard. Bandja Sy has been shooting hot early and freshman Daniel Mullings is an interesting prospect. So while the team is not perfect, they have done some things very well and have looked impressive to this point.
As for football….
Saturday's 42-7 loss at BYU was not a good showing by this year's team.
The 249 yards was a season-low for the Aggies — this was a surprise, as NMSU has moved the ball well on just about everyone they've played to this point of the year. It was the second-straight road clunker for the Aggies — two weeks ago it was a 63-16 loss at Georgia.
From a defensive standpoint, BYU moved the ball and NMSU surrendered 10 of 14 third-down conversion attempts to the Cougars.
Key sequence: With the score tied at 7 in the second quarter, BYU drove 90 yards for a TD. NMSU went three-and-out and the Cougars regained possession and scored just before halftime. So a 7-7, competitive game became a 21-7 contest going into intermission.
NMSU will go to Louisiana Tech this Saturday for yet another TOUGH contest. The Bulldogs are in the WAC driver's seat after a 24-20 win at Nevada. They're a talented team and a win for them this weekend in their season finale will assure them of a WAC championship.
After this Saturday, the Aggies will return home the following weekend for a game against Utah State — it's one that seems winnable. If they can win one of their final two games, that would give the Aggies five wins on the season, which would be quite unbelievable — in a good way — considering where they were last year and the general expectations coming into this season.
As I end many of my posts....We shall see.
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